This week’s Irish Open Golf Tournament will be the 62nd renewal and, with Rory McIlroy flying the flag for his home country, the event now forms part of the new Rolex Series.
The 2017 renewal is being hosted by The Portstewart Golf Club in County Londonderry, Northern Ireland, with the event being played on The Strands Course, 1 of 3 courses at the venue.
At just over 7,000 Yards, the course is far from long but, built on a section of land named The Thistly Hollow, this links course features stunning natural links contours such as towering dunes.
McIlroy has stated that this should be a true links test played on one of Ireland’s hidden gems but, whilst it should be a fantastic spectacle, there is no previous form to go on.
However, it’s worth bearing in mind that 9 of the last 12 Irish Opens have been won by either Irish or UK Based players, whilst Danes have won 3 of the last 15 renewals.
McIlroy heads the market but, whilst he’s a previous Open Champion, his links form as a professional isn’t as good as one might expect. Sure, he won last year when soft conditions played to his strengths, but this year he has the added-pressure of being the defending champion, and he’s yet to defend a title.
The event has also attracted two other world-class players in Hideki Matsuyama and John Rahm, but the youngsters look short considering that this isn’t a course that will particularly play to their strengths. Justin Rose is another who hasn’t excelled on Links courses in recent years whilst, although Tommy Fleetwood should be right at home here, it’s asking a lot of him to win back-to-back events after winning in tricky conditions in France last week.
One player who should relish the next few weeks on the links of Ireland, Scotland and England is Thorbjorn Olesen, and the former Dunhill Links winner also happens to be Danish. 33/1 is a little shorter than I was hoping for but, after he finished well in France last week, the bookmakers seem to have come to the same conclusion about his chances.
Tyrell Hatton hasn’t quite been at his best in recent weeks but, last year’s Dunhill Links winner has shown his pedigree on these sorts of layouts time and time again, and he’s another who will be looking to impress over the next 3 weeks.
Finally, I’m going to throw a few pounds at Matteo Manassero, as the young Italian has shown snippets of his former brilliance this season, and his lack of length off the tee should not be as much of a disadvantage around here.